Nicolo Machiavelli was born at Florence on 3rd May 1469. He was the secondson of Bernardo di Nicolo Machiavelli, a lawyer of some repute, and of Bartolommea di Stefano Nelli, his wife. Both parents were members of the oldFlorentine nobility.His life falls naturally into three periods, each of which singularly enoughconstitutes a distinct and important era in the history of Florence. His youth wasconcurrent with the greatness of Florence as an Italian power under the guidanceof Lorenzo de' Medici, Il Magnifico. The downfall of the Medici in Florenceoccurred in 1494, in which year Machiavelli entered the public service. During hisofficial career Florence was free under the government of a Republic, whichlasted until 1512, when the Medici returned to power, and Machiavelli lost hisoffice. The Medici again ruled Florence from 1512 until 1527, when they wereonce more driven out. This was the period of Machiavelli's literary activity andincreasing influence; but he died, within a few weeks of the expulsion of theMedici, on 22nd June 1527, in his fifty-eighth year, without having regainedoffice.
YOUTH Aet. 1-25--1469-94
Although there is little recorded of the youth of Machiavelli, the Florence of thosedays is so well known that the early environment of this representative citizenmay be easily imagined. Florence has been described as a city with two oppositecurrents of life, one directed by the fervent and austere Savonarola, the other bythe splendour- loving Lorenzo. Savonarola's influence upon the youngMachiavelli must have been slight, for although at one time he wielded immense power over the fortunes of Florence, he only furnished Machiavelli with a subjectof a gibe in "The Prince," where he is cited as an example of an unarmed prophetwho came to a bad end. Whereas the magnificence of the Medicean rule duringthe life of Lorenzo appeared to have impressed Machiavelli strongly, for hefrequently recurs to it in his writings, and it is to Lorenzo's grandson that hededicates "The Prince."Machiavelli, in his "History of Florence," gives us a picture of the young menamong whom his youth was passed. He writes: "They were freer than their forefathers in dress and living, and spent more in other kinds of excesses,consuming their time and money in idleness, gaming, and women; their chief aimwas to appear well dressed and to speak with wit and acuteness, whilst he whocould wound others the most cleverly was thought the wisest." In a letter to hisson Guido, Machiavelli shows why youth should avail itself of its opportunitiesfor study, and leads us to infer that his own youth had been so occupied. Hewrites: "I have received your letter, which has given me the greatest pleasure,especially because you tell me you are quite restored in health, than which I couldhave no better news; for if God grant life to you, and to me, I hope to make agood man of you if you are willing to do your share." Then, writing of a new patron, he continues: "This will turn out well for you, but it is necessary for you tostudy; since, then, you have no longer the excuse of illness, take pains to studyletters and music, for you see what honour is done to me for the little skill I have.